I recently had the privilege of addressing a very distinguished gathering of leaders drawn from different sectors of the society in Eldoret. The topic was, ‘The leadership we need’. Today I want to share some of those thoughts with you because all over Africa when you ask people what our problem is, they will tell you it is leadership yet we don’t seem to be conquering it.
First we need to define what and who a leader is and who the leader is not. There is a strong difference between being a leader and being an office holder. Many people who scramble and lobby for certain offices today are doing so because they have this illusion that when they occupy the office somehow they will become leaders. The truth is that if you are not a leader before you occupy the office, the office does not have the capacity to make a leader out of you. At best you will be an office holder.
A leader is someone that sets the pace. A leader is someone you can follow to a place that you know not. A leader is a person who can paint a picture of the future that will cause intelligent men and women to leave their present in pursuance of that future. A leader is a person who can see what has not yet been made manifest and who can hear words that have not yet been spoken and who can turn them into a desire and a passion in the hearts of others. A leader expresses in words the thoughts in the hearts of others.
True leadership must be transformative in nature. They must be able to move the organization or nation or whatever entity it is from the egg to the butterfly and not just rotate them around as eggs. True leadership takes people from one form to another. As a young man living in Nigeria politicians campaigned with the promise to build roads, provide schools and ensure the stability of electricity. Forty years later and about nine presidents later, the politicians are still campaigning with the same promises. That shows that a society that has moved around in the same form without experiencing transformation. As a Nigerian that is a painful reality.
True leaders are drivers of transformation. Around Africa we see a lot of political office holders with no retirement plans. This is simply because they have no compelling vision of a future out of office. Now that is scary because transformation starts on a personal level. If they are unable to lead themselves from one form of their lives to another how then do we expect them to lead an entity like a nation effectively? Many of them though in high offices are prisoners because if your vision of tomorrow is not stronger than your comfort of today you will remain a prisoner of today.
Africans have a king and kingdom mentality where there is a strong king and weak followers. We believe in leaders leading followers but true leadership is when leaders lead leaders. I have called this the 3L Leadership Model (Leaders Leading Leaders). It is a model where everyone is built to become leaders.
No individual was made to be weak. In the battle between the lion and the shark terrain determines the outcome. True leaders help their team members discover their terrain of strength and help move them from unconscious incompetence through conscious incompetence past unconscious competence to conscious competence. Winston Churchill ascribed his success to the fact that he surrounded himself with people more intelligent than him. The folly of many indigenous African organizations (including churches) is that they are built around a strong vision bearer and weak followers. The strength of a vision is determined by the quality of its subscribers. Getting people more intelligent than you to submit themselves to your vision one remarkable trait of a leader. There is no joy in being the brightest among fools or being the most learned amongst the ignorant. True leadership builds strong personal brands.
True leaders are people of faith. They are not scared to be different. They do not shy away from trouble. They stand for what they believe even if it is not popular. Like the eagle they do not back off from the storm. They are able to mount up and fly above the clouds. They are not defined by their office. They are defined by their faith and vision. Nelson Mandela’s definition does not come from the fact that he was president of South Africa. His personal brand is bigger than the office. True leaders do not need the office to be defined. They bring definition to the office.
True leadership does not rule by intimidation or coercion but by inspiration. True leaders point you to your greatness. They reveal yourself to you. True leaders point you to your potential and not always reminding you of their own strengths or position. True leaders make you see the man in the boy and the giant in the man. True leadership opens your eyes to the fact that though you may be jobless right now, there is an employer inside you. Though you may be squatting with someone right now, there is a landlord inside you. True leaders remind you that like Mandela, though you may be a prisoner of some sorts, there is a president and a great statesman inside you.
Are you looking for the next great African leader? Look in the mirror. That leader will be staring back at you.
Do have a wonderful weekend!